Kirsan Ilyumzhinov – The cause of many of our problems is the lack of intelligence and culture.


The cause of many of our problems is the lack of intelligence and culture.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov shared views about doing business during the crisis period.

He is the first Head of Kalmykia and the President of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), the government leader and businessman. The more you communicate with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the more you feel the calmness, naturalness and easiness that comes from this man. His lightheartedness is not because of being a “man of the land”, and in his naturalness there is nothing artificial or prompted by the assistant or PR specialists. He’s lucky to remain himself, to live in harmony with the world. It is interesting to listen to him, not making encouraging noises and carry on reasoning. It is had to believe that development of character of this man started at the age of five. However, the first big act of courage of Ilyumzhinov, perhaps is the decision not to enter the bright corridors of the Moscow State University after school, but the production plant

Within the framework of the IV Central Asia Chess Cup held in Almaty, the prize pool of which is $25 thousand dollars is entirely to his achievement. We asked Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to share his current activities, tell about doing business during the crisis period, and how the chess can help to save the world.


– You were a gold medalist, the winner of many All-Soviet Union Olympiads on various subjects. Why did you having a preferential opportunity to enter the best University in the USSR, decide to go to work as a mechanic at the “Zvezda” plant?

I believed that people should prove themselves. I wanted to understand whether I can work with my hands? After a week I was met by a teacher on the street and she cried: “You’re a disgrace to our school! All your classmates entered the universities, and you went to the factory”. And after two months I became a foreman, beat the target and earned more than my mother. With the first salary I invited all my classmates to the restaurant. Then I was called for the army. I decided to test myself as a man, to understand what is like to go for a forced march with a 16kg machine gun and find out what the military hazing is. Can I withstand it? In the first week in the army we were sent to the kitchen, and I just received a letter from a friend: “Saturday. End of classes. Going to the disco”. And I started to think: well, they entertain, and I’m scrubbing greasy, dirt kitchen floors. After reading the letter I cried a little: I felt week and aggrieved. But I braced myself and after the army decided to go to University. I was interested in Japan. There are 80 thousand characters! I made up my mind to learn them and became a specialist on this country.


– Kirsan Nikolaevich could you tell us when the chess appeared in your life?

– I was taught to play by my grandfather, and pretty soon I became the champion of the street. Once there was a game among senior students and they were short of one player. I was included in the team and won all of them. At that time the most available sports were football and chess. Especially chess and indeed almost all the World Champions were from country. And today, chess has become even more popular. This is evident from the success of chess players of Kazakhstan Federation. Recently it’s been 20 years since I became the President of FIDE. At that time the organization numbered 130 countries, today the number reached 190. Chess was played by 200 million people, and today about 600 million people play this game. Over the years, the objective to unify of the chess world was achieved. There were 2 Federations, either of which had its world champion. Today we have a single champion – a 24-year-old Norwegian, Magnus Carlsen. The chess world is united. Our new goal is achieve 1 billion people in the world playing chess by 2020.


– I know that you are one of those who believe that with the help of chess we can save this world…

– We have an educational program “Chess in school”. And it is spreading around the world: from Spain to Armenia, from Vietnam to the United States. What is its ultimate goal? I believe that many of the world’s conflicts, crises, political and religious issue arise NOT because of a lack of resources. Many of our problems result from lack of intelligence and culture. We should promote friendship, love, but not to fight. This is the idea. First think, then make a move, a step, an action. Same as in chess. If more people on the planet play chess, the number of wrong decisions will sharply slide down. And we should start with schools, kindergartens, children.

That’s why we developed the program “Chess in school”. Two years ago I suggested to the President of Mexico to start teaching chess in ten pilot schools. A year later, seeing the results, he signed a decree on the transfer of all 200 thousand schools in the country to the compulsory teaching of chess. Introduction of chess in schools helps to improve school results. For example in Kalmykia at the time it increased by 40%


– The socially responsible entrepreneur is worth much. How have your business been changing over the years?

– Now I have more time to deal with it. I started with business and was one of the first official millionaires. When I was 29 I bought a diamond crown from Garry Kasparov. Now I prefer large transnational projects. In Mongolia, we won the tender for the construction of the railway. In Vietnam and Cambodia are building a 4G telecommunications network and wireless Internet. We are engaged in trading, construction of centers, trade, real estate business and many other things. Most of all, constitutional – investment business. I would say now I have a more strategic transnational flow of capital. Only in the Russian economy during the last 4 years I have raised approximately € 5.8 billion Euro in the form of investments for the implementation of various projects in different regions of the country. I think it’s pretty good.


Don’t you not feel like losing control because of such a large number of projects?

Right you are, and I’ve already been through this. Before becoming the President of Kalmykia, I was the owner of more than 50 companies in Moscow. I was engaged in maintenance for foreign cars, sales of Japanese cars, banking, the restaurant business… I was the founder of the Russian securities exchange. Now I am the founder of the Russian Chamber of Commerce.


– You’ve been to many countries. Do you find the time to explore them?

One of the reasons why I wanted to enroll at MGIMO was to see the world. It happened upon graduation. But later… you’ll be surprised, I was able to see Versailles and the Louvre only during my sixth visit to Paris. Usually is had the following route: Charles de Gaulle airport – hotel – airport. We are the largest sports federation in the world, so during a year I visit up to 100 countries. Last year I visited 108 countries, while this year only 80. So it’s not so much traveling as work. But these visits enrich life experience. You get the understanding that we, people, are all the same, and think alike. The world is very simple and small.


Everybody now clutching at his head, especially after tenge was “set free”. The period of crisis. What is it like to do business in such times?

For me there is no crisis. For the entrepreneurs, I think, it’s a very good time to earn good and big money. If normally you can get 5-10% profit on the average or 15% with luck, during crisis period you can get 200%. The main thing is to be at the right time in the right place with the right ideas. I don’t understand when the graduate who still didn’t achieve anything, believes that the salary of 1000 dollars is small and refuses the job. In my days we were proposed 100 dollars, and I thought it was a lot of money, and worked normally. When oil was expensive, these were quite rich years, and there appeared plenty of salarymen, but the situation has changed. However everything depends not on how much the oil costs, but on how many the right ideas you have to be realized.


– What do you think is the world crisis from the standpoint of philosophy?

– This is another era. We moved from Aquarius to Pisces. Everything is in motion. All the planets are spinning very quickly around its axis and the Sun. And the Sun is rushing. It rocks before the transition of humanity into a new state of consciousness to understand that God or the cosmos gave us this beautiful planet and that we should not destroy it, dump wastes into rivers, pollute the environment, make boast of invention of a new weapon. It’s a blister upon the society, that occurs because something is not going smooth in the minds of people, rather than in the country itself. Everything starts with the human. It’s not fair that Africa and Asia hold the half of all material resources of the world, but only a few countries benefit from them, in particular European and the USA. For example, the West did not use the collapse of the Soviet Union to the benefit – I’m talking about those billions of dollars that became available during the arms race. It didn’t draw these funds, for example, for the development of the same post-Soviet space, Asian and African countries, construction of new schools, universities. It was necessary to establish educational research centers and carry out intellectualization. This money was meant for such activities. But what were they actually used for? The dictatorship of one country, one ideology, building-up powers, an attempt to implant democratic values literally in tribes that have not passed the previous stages of social development


You keep calm talking about things considered to be out of the scale. I should say such an attitude makes myself feel comfortable. There is a steady feeling that you are happy man. And this happiness is some kind of internal, not expressed emotionally, but it is.

– I am happy since the childhood I believe, because I always did what I wanted; within human values. A child should be given everything to be developed. He should read a good literature, not watching TV showing violence, sex and wrong values. The sooner the child becomes independent, the sooner learns to take responsibility for his decisions, the sounder the society will be. If there is a harmony within yourself, then you’re happy. Play chess.


An interview with Roman Raifeld